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Waterproof Shower Wall Panels: What You Need to Know

Thinking about remodeling your shower, but don’t want to deal with the high price of a stone slab wall or the grout that comes with tile? If you want a low-maintenance shower with strong visual appeal, waterproof shower wall panels may be the solution for you. 

As a design-build remodeling firm in Portland, OR, Lamont Bros. helps local homeowners build their dream bathrooms. As shower wall panels become more popular, more and more clients wonder if this stylish solution is right for them. While not the right fit for everyone’s design, synthetic shower walls are a great option that combines style and affordability with low-maintenance materials. 

In this article, you can read all about synthetic shower wall trends. We’ll discuss everything you need to know about this up-and-coming design trend, including:

What are waterproof shower wall panels made of?

Synthetic shower walls are a type of shower enclosure that uses panels of waterproof synthetic material. It is similar to a slab shower, except instead of natural stone or porcelain, the slab is made from a laminated wood-plastic or PVC/acrylic composite. 

Despite having a wood core, laminate shower walls are highly waterproof. Many come with water damage warranties of up to 10 years. The laminate outer shell is what makes this possible. The outer shell also comes in many different patterns and styles ranging from flat colors to stone and wood grain patterns.

Wetwall by Wilsonart and Kohler Choreograph are two of the most popular manufacturers of waterproof shower wall panels.

How much do waterproof shower wall panels cost?

The cost of installing synthetic shower wall system depends on the size and complexity of the shower itself. The material is relatively inexpensive. For the average-sized shower, high-quality waterproof panels cost between $1,750-3,000. In addition to the panels, you’ll also need waterproofing barriers, caulk, and a floor basin. 

With a shower remodel, the cost of materials actually makes up a small portion of the total cost. Showers are technically complex projects and often require a professional’s expertise to install correctly. If you choose to have your shower wall installed by a contractor, expect to pay for design services, permitting, and labor, as well. 

Another factor to consider is the removal of your old shower. A poorly installed shower can result in water intrusion in your home’s walls. If not addressed, this can go on for years, causing severe structural damage. If your remodeling team finds water intrusion in your walls when tearing out your old shower, they may need to repair the damage before moving on, which costs more in materials and labor. 

It’s also legally required that a plumber do the plumbing in a shower remodel. Although plumbing is becoming more and more expensive, a professional plumber now is better than water intrusion later. Some low-price bathroom remodelers will cut costs by doing the plumbing work themselves. Not only is this the wrong way to remodel a bathroom, it’s also illegal. 

If done correctly, a new synthetic shower wall system can cost between $16,000-$20,000.

How are the wall panels installed?

The process of installing a synthetic shower wall is relatively simple. Each piece attaches to the wall using a special adhesive. The individual panels connect to one another a tongue-and-groove system and therefore do not require grout. Most manufacturers recommend installing synthetic shower wall panels over a waterproof backer board. However, you can also install them directly over existing tiles.

Because they are meant for wall use and not rated for load-bearing capacity, synthetic material cannot go on the floor of the shower. As a result, you’ll have to use a different material for the floor of the shower. Many people choose a prefabricated shower pan, which comes in several standard sizes but may limit customization. Another popular option is to use a tile floor or even a stone shower pan. Though more expensive, these offer a wider variety of shapes and sizes for your shower.

Waterproof shower wall panel installation video by Wilsonart

What makes shower wall panels different from other showers?

Waterproof shower wall panels fill a unique niche in the shower remodeling market. Considered a mid-tier option, this shower style offers a strong balance between visual appeal, affordability, and reasonable maintenance.

Compared to fiberglass inserts, synthetic shower walls offer a much stronger aesthetic and slightly more size flexibility. The most limiting factor of the shower wall is the size of the floor material. 

Custom tile showers feature unparalleled customizability with the tradeoff of being more expensive. Unlike tile, synthetic shower walls are easy to install and cost less. Tile showers also have grout, which requires cleaning. Synthetic showers, which use caulk instead, do not require as much maintenance.

In terms of appearance and functionality, synthetic showers are most similar to stone slab showers. Both come in large panels and often look like stone. The main difference between the two is the price – slab showers can often cost twice as much as synthetic. 

Think a synthetic shower wall is right for your bathroom?

Now that you know more about synthetic shower wall systems, take the next step in your research! Learn more about the different types of shower wall enclosures on our Tub to Shower Conversion page. Here, you can read more in-depth about the shower systems mentioned in this article.

If you’re ready to start designing the bathroom of your dreams, you don’t have to do it alone! As one of Portland’s top remodeling firms, Lamont Bros. will guide you through each step of the remodeling process, from first design concepts to the finished build. Click the button below to schedule a free consultation with one of our professional design consultants.